The lockdown can be sometimes stimulating.

As a newcomer in Budapest, I wanted to avoid wasting my time during the curfew and to find something interesting to read. While visiting a local bookstore, I saw a title that attracted my attention: “A Warning”. It was a thorough description written by an anonymous senior official of the Trump administration of the arbitrary and erratic decision-making of the previous U.S. presidency. (Security expert Miles Taylor later revealed himself to be the writer.) 

The book provides an important lesson to any government, political party, individual politician or student of political sciences of what happens if facts are intentionally distorted and overlooked. Similarly, it reminds us of how important it is to maintain transparency and accountability in public service. If that’s not the case, small problems will eventually snowball into massive ones.

Having worked in several countries, I have come to understand that these goals are not self-evident in any context. Every political party will eventually have its weak moments, when narrow interests surpass wider benefits. Normally, these mistakes can be rectified by the electorate. However, problems arise if the wider public is actively misled by the leading constellation, as was the case during the Trump presidency.

It is somehow frightening to notice that after four years of social unrest caused by the previous U.S. government, the outcome was still extremely tight: 51% vs. 49%. Never have I followed any election results as closely as I did last November. The reason is obvious: a second mandate for Donald Trump could have caused major havoc as he would have been freed of any restrictions due to the lack of future elections. This could have had serious implications on the international community and our ability to face common challenges, such as global warming. 

The best way to avoid similar situations is to listen to scientists, promote open discussion, and to come up with compromises that take into account different views.

Finland has a tradition of bringing together key stakeholders in society, such as labor unions, academic circles, civil society and the private sector. Together, they represent a formidable amount of information, which is invaluable when preparing future legislation. 

The Finnish Institute in Hungary (FinnAgora) will try to follow a similar approach by widening the scope of its activities from cultural events to business and civil society, by launching a new podcast series to interview interesting people, by organizing seminars and conferences on current affairs, and by promoting cooperation between stakeholders in Finland, Hungary and neighboring countries, including twin cities, friendship associations, and the church. 

I hope you will enjoy our programme. Once the Covid situation has settled, I look forward to meeting you in person. 

The book “A Warning”by “Anonymous” was published in 2019 by Little, Brown (Great Britain).

Eero Yrjö-Koskinen